Spring and early summer in the south are lovely. This week, I saw flowers everywhere I went. I mean everywhere. Whether it was on my street or in my Facebook feed, I kept seeing – and I mean really noticing – flowers. The phenomenon was so pronounced and out of character for me that I started to wonder if God was trying to teach me something. It wasn’t until a precious sister in Christ shared a testimony about some unique vegetation that I really understood what He wanted me to see. Christians are like century plants. We spend a lot of time and energy waiting to bloom.
Agave Americana — AKA the Century Plant
Agave americana is a succulent that typically grows in hot, arid temperatures. In fact, of about 200 species of agave plants, there are nine different varieties referred to as “century plants,” so named for their long lifespan and the time it takes waiting for the flowers to come out. The plants actually live from eight to eighty years, most ten to thirty. But no matter how long a century plant lives, it only blooms once.
Stage 1: A Beautiful Succulent
For the first several years, the plant is large and circular, not unlike a lot of the tiny succulent plants people buy for decoration. But beauty isn’t their only benefit. They are actually a good source of fiber when roasted or boiled, and they can even be used to make agave syrup, a sweet substitute for sugar or honey, or even herbal medicines.
Stage 2: Time to Bloom
When it is time to bloom, a spikey stem will emerge from the center of the plant. Some call it “Texas Asparagus” because of its shape and the fact that the agave is actually a part of the asparagus family. In contrast to the slow progress so far, the stalk will grow quickly from here. Sometimes that shoot can grow at a rate of several inches per day. The blooming period usually lasts one to four months, with the stalk growing steadily higher and higher during that time. When fully grown, some stalks can reach as high as 35 or 40 feet tall!
Finally, the waiting will be over, and the plant will sprout beautiful yellow flowers that last around a month or so before they start to fade and wilt. During that time, bees and hummingbirds will visit the flowers to sip the sweet nectar there.
Stage 3: The Whole Plant Dies
Blooming is the century plant’s final act. The plant spends its entire lifetime storing up enough energy to grow the stalk, blooms, and shoots of new life. After that, the plant dies at the same time as the flowering stalk. It can be removed when thoroughly dry to avoid the caustic sap that can cause skin irritation.
Stage 4: New Life Begins
While death is inevitable, so is new life. Agave plants produce in one of two ways. One way is an “agave pup,” an offshoot that will form around the base of the plant after flowering. These can be kept in place or, after a little growing time, can be detached from the main root for replanting. Another way is “bulbils,” floral buds that are shed from the main plant during bloom.
A Christian’s Life Is Spent Waiting
“I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”Psalm 130:5
Much of the Christian life is spent waiting to bloom. God calls us into ministries, guides our progress, and helps us through the sanctification process. So many times, just like the century plant, we will expend great amounts of energy with seemingly no growth, no fruit, and no bloom.
How many times will we pray for our lost loved ones to be saved? How many people will we witness to over the years without evidence that a single person turned his/her life to Christ? The days, months, and even years stack up that we have prayed, worked, and done our best to follow the Lord without getting weary. Still, from what we can see, nothing much seems to change.
Work While It’s Day
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”John 9:4
But life is short for both plants and people. In the time and place we are planted, we must give our all toward the singular lifelong goal of pleasing the Lord. Whether it’s being a sweet aroma to the Lord in worship or providing good things for those He sends our way, we must serve without reservation.Romans 2:6 says that the Lord will render to us according to our deeds. It’s not the effects we think we can see that matter. It’s what we do. We must remain faithful in our actions even when we can't see the results of them. Click To Tweet
Watch for the “Suddenly”
But just like the century plant will grow for years and years and years before that stalk pops up out of the middle, we can similarly watch for the “suddenly.” The Bible is filled with them, notably in the Book of Acts, the chapter describing the days of the early church. The Lord opened prison doors, shined the light of truth, and filled His people with power in an instant.
- Acts 16:26: “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”
- Acts 9:3: “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.”
- Acts 2:2-4 “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
In our own lives, we might notice that the Lord is taking us in a new direction. “Suddenly,” we will see ourselves grow and mature toward His purposes. And just as suddenly we may see the results of our lifelong labor, the delicate shoots we have forgotten about over time suddenly peeping out of the dirt with new life.
Waiting to Bloom
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’”John 12:24-25
Just like the century plant gives its life to bloom, Christians must spend ourselves completely for one cause. All our energy should go into serving the Lord until we pass from this life to the next. In the time of patiently waiting, we can be confident that no matter what it looks like most of the time, there will be a bloom, and there will be fruit. God is working behind the scenes to make sure of it. We can trust that in His timing the things we have done faithfully for the Kingdom of God WILL have a lasting impact. We just have to watch and wait for them.
If you like analogies, try Beware of Spiritual Mistletoe: An Analogy. Or, try 3 Last Days Object Lessons From Shopping. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.